NASCAR isn’t back until somebody wrecks the race leader on the last lap.
Consider NASCAR back, then.
Chase Elliott gave fans exactly what they’ve come to expect at Daytona International Speedway, turning Ryan Blaney on the final lap of Tuesday’s Busch Clash. Elliott’s aggressive move ended up being for naught, however, as it opened the door for Kyle Busch to sneak past for the win.
Here’s everything that led up to the wreck and its immediate aftermath:
Elliott was unapologetic afterward, and Blaney didn’t seem to have much of a problem with getting punted, either. It is Daytona, after all, where destroyed race cars are more the norm than the exception.
Then again, it’s doubtful Blaney would be as forgiving if Elliott sent him spinning in Sunday’s Daytona 500, where the stakes — and the speeds — are much higher than in the non-points paying Clash.
Busch, for his part, got to start the year by celebrating in victory circle, something he did far less than he’s accustomed to last year.
All told, it was a thrilling beginning to Speedweeks, which continued Wednesday with practice and qualifying on the 2 1/2-mile oval. Denny Hamlin and others might not have been thrilled with holding the Clash on the road course, but seeing his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate take the checkered flag had to make things a little more palatable.
Moving the Clash to the road course wasn’t the only drastic new development in NASCAR this year. The retirement of seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, the arrival of Kyle Larson at Hendrick Motorsports following his ouster at Chip Ganassi Racing and Bubba Wallace’s move to the newly minted 23XI Racing team will give the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season and entirely different look — for better or worse — than in years past.
Start your engines.